Five Signs of a Dysfunctional Release Process
By Michelle Henry
It's easy to fall into a pattern of dysfunctional releases, release processes that are characterized by delay, inefficiency, and endless meetings that encourage people to view releases as a problem. These are the kinds of meetings that inspire references to the movie Office Space or emails that include clippings of the cartoon Dilbert - repetitive meetings to answer the same questions over and over again all because people lack the tools to connect the issue tracker with the change management systems.
In organizations without a reliable process a release is also a time for production system outages and support calls that last well into the night as people try to diagnose errors that could have been anticipated with better communication and coordination. In short, if it's not managed correctly a release can sap morale from entire departments and distract critical technical employees from being productive.
If your IT department is constantly viewing a release as an emergency to be avoided then there's going to be a problem in an industry that is only focused on accelerating software delivery through increasingly agile approaches to development. Here are some signs that your release process is broken:
Sign 1: "Do we have to have another meeting about this release?"
Repetitive Meetings to Reconcile Release Spreadsheets - Release managers who require regular daily meetings with critical IT personnel from both IT support and application development distract from the effort of software creation and act as a drag on productive resources who should be focused on value creation.
The specific financial impact of overly frequent meetings to support a manual release process reduces the efficiency of critical personnel by at least 20% (and that's a low estimate.) In a department that already uses a tool like JIRA to track status and a tool like BMC Remedy to track service requests much of this coordination could be automated and that's exactly what Plutora's Release Manager provides.
Sign 2: "How come we weren't notified of this change to production?"
Unplanned Outages Due to Miscommunication - When a release process lacks sufficient predictability to anticipate and address problems in production due to miscommunication the effective costs and risks associated with even the simplest of releases can be dramatically increased.
Your developers and your sysadmins will be on the phone until 2 AM trying to diagnose some difficult to detect problem caused by the fact that no one kept track of upstream and downstream system dependencies. It isn't just the time lost that is a problem, it's all the developers and administrators you'll be waking up in the middle of the night just because you didn't have a tool like Plutora available to help you model system-level dependencies. This is a great way to make everyone in the organization see your project and your group as a problem to be fixed.
Sign 3: "That change will have to wait until next week."
Limited Ability to Deliver Multiple, Simultaneous Releases - An organization without a consolidated and comprehensive view of release status across the organization is forced to simplify release management and serialize releases. This artificial serialization of releases increases time to value dramatically making it more difficult for the enterprise to react quickly to rapidly changing market conditions.
If you constantly have to tell people that a simple one-line bug fix has to wait multiple weeks to go to production because of your release management process then your release management process is broken. With Plutora you can track multiple releases at the same time with confidence that you won't be missing critical details. Don't oversimplify your approach to releases because you don't have the right tools.
Sign 4: "Wait, you never said you needed a QA environment."
Inability to Anticipate Environment Contention Issues - When an organization fails to adequately account for environment management in a release process it forces teams responsible for testing and qualification to fight over limited resources. If you've been in an environment with limited testing resources you'll understand how frustrating it can be when an entire project has to stop and wait for a testing environment to be rebuilt at the last minute.
Sign 5: "We're doing a release on Friday so don't make any plans this weekend."
A General Sense of Resignation to Inefficiency and Low Morale - Organizations that lack a mature and developed approach to release management are full of individuals who view releases as events that are impossible to manage. A "release" becomes an opportunity for the expression of frustration and illustrates deep disconnects between departments both within and external to an IT organization.
If you let your releases continue to be broken for many months - people will quit. This sense of defeat related to releases can affect general morale within an IT organization and increase personnel churn in senior development and operations staff affected by systemic failures associated with a broken release process. If you are constantly asking people to sacrifice weekends because of your broken release process, it's time to invest in Plutora and mark weekends as off-limits.
With Plutora your work months have 20-days because you predict problems before they happen.